Monthly Webinar – Licences

We ran the second in our monthly webinar series focusing on different areas of KB+ and this weeks topic was licences.

Click here to watch the 50 mins webinar on licenses on KB+ where I talk about how you can store your licenses, view key properties, export useful information and use our comparison tools to help you identify what is permissible across different licences.

Following feedback from the community we have worked on improving existing licences functionality as well as introducing new features and this webinar attempts to cover the range of tools now available in KB+.

In this webinar I show:

  • How to add licences to your KB+ account, by copying from the knowledge base or adding a blank licence
  • How you can edit the key properties table within a licence to add your own properties
  • How to link to a subscription from the licence
  • How to search across the licences including filtering by properties and export this information
  • How to use the Licence Comparison Tool – comparing ONIX-PL licences
  • How to ‘Compare Licences (KB+ Licence Properties)

Our next webinar will be on the 23rd March at 11.00 and is about Subscriptions, please email for full details on joining.


KB+ Release 5 – Licences

Here are some of the new licence improvements from the latest release, KB+ R5.

Licence Comparison Tool (see user guide for full details)

screenshot Licence Comparison

The licence comparison tool has been improved in terms of content and design. Where there is an ONIX-PL (machine readable) version of a licence in KB+ you can now compare the full details of licences including terms such as definitions of Authorised Users, and all usage term information. This comparison tool is available via Institutions->Licence Comparison Tool (ElCat)

You can also now compare the simpler KB+ Licence Properties between 2 or more licences. This new functionality is available via Institutions > “your institution” > Compare Licences (KB+ Licence Properties)

These comparison tools can be useful for example when comparing new and old licences to check for changes or helping answer queries about what different licences permit.

Licence Exports (see user guide for full details)

There are new Export options to both individual and a list of licences. You can export the titles associated with a licence or the licensed subscription/package or the licence itself including the licence properties.

For example you can now filter your licences by those that allow “Walk in Access” and export a list of all journals which permit this. (if this property is included in your licences)

licence export screenshot

Licences (see user guide for full details)

When you click on a licence you now see the licence properties first, this was changed in response to feedback about showing the most commonly used information first.

It is also now possible to Link to a subscription from the licence screen as well as copying a licence from the licence details screen rather than going back to the licence list.

licence screenshot

The aim of these improvements was to help get to the data you need more effectively as well as streamlining workflows.

For more details about the new features in KB+ R5 please watch the 10min screencast.


KB+ Release 3.3

With this new release we are able to provide some major developments and improvements to help embed KB+ in institutions workflows. The system now provides greater flexibility in terms of communication, tracking changes, adding subscriptions, exporting data etc.

Some of the key new developments include:

Communication and Collaboration.

Collaboration has always been invaluable in the creation and development of KB+ and in the new release changes have been made to the dashboard in order that we can provide

  • key information requiring action clearly
  • the ability to track information to suit your workflow
  • forums for further discussion regarding the content in KB+

This screencast introduces the KB+ Dashboard

From the dashboard the ‘To Do’ column has information relating to your subscriptions. This column provides links to packages where you will then be prompted to accept or decline changes. For example this could include new title additions to a package, title edits etc.

There is a column for announcements which could be either from the data managers regarding addition of new content or from the system itself about any amendments made to packages.

The third column shows the latest discussions related to a package, these discussions take place on a third party system called Zendesk. Zendesk offers the ability to track discussions per package either by RSS or email alerts as well as allow you to contribute your comments. As information about new packages and amendments to packages is also automatically posted to special discussion threads you can subscribed to these announcements via email or RSS as well.

I am really excited about this development as I think it will be of great benefit to the KB+ community and help meet our aspiration of a central source of institutional data shared across all stakeholders.

Further details and support regarding the dashboard and Zendesk is available at


Another successful collaboration has been with JUSP, in the new release we will be able to provide, where available, the JR1 and JR1A usage statistics for titles within KB+ (please note this functionality will be available w/c 29th September). We anticipate that this is just the start of the integration between the systems.

As the inclusion of usage statistics within KB+ is intended to support renewals and related workflows, the JR1/JR1A statistics are included in the Renewals spreadsheets generated by KB+.

Manage Menu

The manage menu should now include all the core areas relating to the system, a new addition include the ability to generate spreadsheets which can be exported from the system, edited and then re-imported using the “Generate Subscription Taken Worksheet” and ‘Import Subscription Taken Worksheet’ functions. These work in a similar way to the existing ‘Renewals’ functionality, but do not require you to have an existing subscription to start from.

User Profile Page

Changes to this page include the ability for an editor at an institution to manage all its users and assign the appropriate status for those using the system. This increased flexibility will hopefully allow you manage the system more effectively for your workflows. Further information about the Profile Page is available at

You can now also select ‘Data Transformations’ which allows you to choose which format you want to use to export data from KB+. The formats we are supporting with the launch of v3.3 are formats for two of the major link resolvers/KnowledgeBases – Serials Solutions 360 and SFX. These are available for immediate use, we are working with Serials Solutions and  Ex Libris to identify suitable partner sites to test them fully and to define and refine workflows between KB+ and vendor knowledgebases. Any feedback on these is welcome, and we will be adding further export formats in the near future. If there are any particular formats you would like to see, please let us know.


We are now able to load ONIX licences into KB+ ,which will commence shortly, once the licenses are loaded you will be able to view and compare usage terms helping you to evaluate the collections.

Support documentation including information on these new features is available at

KB+ Collaboration

I am pleased to report that both Ex Libris and Serials Solutions are now using data from KB+.

  • Ex Libris provide a clear statement on their SFX targets to indicate they have got their data from KB+
  • Serials Solutions provide a list of those databases where they use KB+ data via their Support Centre

A key principle of KB+ is to do the work once and share, so I was really pleased to see that both Ex Libris and Serials Solution are using KB+ data. Having a single data source will help save time and resource across institutions.

I read an interesting article(1) today by Ed Chamberlain in Insights, covering union catalogues, open data and data aggregation. In the article he noted that KB+ was “aiming to create a national-level store of licence and holdings data that is owned and managed by a community. System vendors can also take and contribute data from and to the store. This allows libraries as customers to migrate from one electronic resource management system (ERM) to another with confidence that data will be uniform in quality across the marketplace.”  Its encouraging to see steps towards reaching this aim.

(1)Chamberlain, E. (2013) “Where do we go with Union Catalogues?” Insights. 26 (2) pp.180-184

Indicative KB+ workflows – reflections from UEA

At UEA we’re still KB+ novices, but we thought we’d share some of the KB+ workflows which we think will be relevant to our institution.

*Other institutions are warmly invited to add to the list or make corrections*

Workflow 1: Creating and recording subscriptions for all our nesli2 and related deals.

This can be done for existing and past years and includes adding titles (entitlements) and editing issue entitlement dates manually where necessary. This gives us an accurate online record of our key packages and their holdings. We can potentially do this for all packages in KB+ (and at package level for any subscriptions not in KB+). So this is helpful in gradually replacing data otherwise stored in our filing cabinets.

Workflow 2: Adding and viewing core subscriptions, including cancellation rights.

This gives us an historical record of our core subscribed titles for particular years, as when entering core titles we are able to specify if they are Print only, Print+Electronic or Electronic.  The workflow also ensures that entitlements around core individual journal subscriptions, on which “big deals” are based, are not lost in the noise of the generic entitlements for the big deal package. This functionality also makes it easy to review our list of core titles annually to claim any cancellation entitlements that may be part of the current “big deal” package agreement.

Workflow 3: Checking past entitlements.

The Title List functionality includes backfile and frontfile subscriptions, so we can search and drill down for details about individual titles we have subscribed to in the past (making sure we have left the ‘Subscriptions valid on’ blank so as to select ‘all years’). Then we can use the ‘Full Issue Entitlement’ details to view data about any potentially missing past entitlements.

Workflow 4:  Using the Titles functionality and data to populate our link resolver.

From the Titles option, we can select packages and our local entitlements data using the filters and can then get a.csv export. The format needs manual editing to be in the correct format for our link resolver upload (we understand this functionality is being worked on by the KB+ team to become more automated).

Workflow 5: Add Licenses that apply to our subscriptions and view/amend the summary data.

These are simple to select and present helpful summary data about what is, and is not, permitted, under our current licenses, e.g. Walk-In Users, Course Packs, Interlending, concurrent users, remote access, post-cancellation access, partner, alumni, SME and multi-site access. We can also manually edit these summary data to take into account our local circumstances.

Workflow 6: Upload our own institutional local licenses.

This is achieved through the ‘Add Documents’ functionality. This functionality is helpful if there is no generic license available from KB+ or if one of our local licenses has substantial differences from a generic one.

Workflow 7: Identifying possible overlapping subscriptions.

Filtering a Title List to the current year’s subscriptions, we can search and drill down for details about individual titles (the ‘Full Issue Entitlements’ screen) and note if the same content is being delivered through several packages and potentially cancel a title (or even package) if the duplication is unnecessary.

Workflow 8: Identifying alternative packages that might include this title.

Filtering a Title List to our current year’s packages, we can search and drill down for details about individual titles and note if the same content is available through several packages and potentially choose a different, possibly cheaper, one.

Workflow 9: The annual renewal process.

Accessed from the ‘Manage – Generate renewals’ spreadsheet option which shows us all possible subscriptions, not just our own, and allows us to compare this year’s with next year’s packages, for example.  We can see which titles have been dropped for 2014 but also any added as well.

Workflow 10: Dashboard and alerts.

The alerts functionality enables cross-institutional knowledge-sharing about known problems and issues and appears on our dashboard. We can comment on any alerts to add further support to the issues that have been shared. There are also alerts for changes to generic licenses.

Workflow 11: Notes.

This functionality allows us to add local Notes to our subscriptions and licenses in case there are particular known issues or points to remember (e.g. renewal dates).

 Copyright free. This content can be edited, redistributed and reused without attribution.


Approaches to Licensing in elcat and KB+

Over the last few weeks I’ve spoken at a number of events bringing people up to date about KB+ and the data and services that will be available from launch. In the course of those events it’s become clear that the provision of licensing information for library systems is attractive to both academic libraries and the systems vendors who support them.

There are a number of reasons for this:

Systems vendors have found it challenging to get hold of the content provider licences, and then map them in a way that can be displayed usefully to institutions in their systems.

This has meant that Libraries have largely been left to do the job of populating the licensing modules in their systems by themselves, which doesn’t work because they often lack confidence in their ability to interpret the licences or the time it would take to do this work across all the licences they are responsible for.

Closely related to both of the above is that the licences being negotiated, sometimes end up being somewhat hazy on some of the key questions that librarians ask of them. Now whilst haziness is often an advantage from a legal point of view (it’s difficult to be accused of breaching a licence when it’s far from clear what a clause actually means or if a particular use case was even covered by the licence), it’s a pain in the neck if you are just trying to give someone a straight answer to an apparently simple question. It also makes the job of representing a licence in a library (or any other) system very difficult indeed.

What are the consequences of all this?

Well, if the work to map a licence and enter it into an ERM is being repeated by each institution on the same licences, that is a huge amount of time across the sector being spent by senior staff, who could in all probability be better employed doing something else.

On the other hand, if the work isn’t being done at all, then a lot of expensive functionality is going to waste and libraries aren’t in a position to efficiently make their users aware of licence information.

Finally, there is a knock on impact on decision making within the institution – what services can I offer to users? What resources do I want to subscribe to? What print can I dispose of? – all of these decision either rely on or can be informed by access to licence information.

Different JISC Collections Approaches

JISC Collections is currently trying to help address these issues through the Electronic Licence Comparison and Analysis Tool (elcat) and Knowledge Base+, both of which approach the issue in slightly different ways.


Over the last 2 years JISC Collections has been mapping a large number of its licences into ONIX-PL – a NISO standard for the expression of licence agreements in a machine readable way, developed by EDItEUR specifically for use by publishers, ERM and other library system vendors.

ONIX-PL allows us to capture the whole of the licence and even if the licences themselves aren’t consistent, the mapping process is, which allows us to view a consistent expression of all our licences and to compare different licences with each other efficiently.

There are now 135 licences in elcat covering JISC Collections model licences, e-journal, e-books, databases and archive agreements going back as far as 2008 in some cases. It’s has been used by over 100 institutions since it was launched in March.

We hope that elcat will simplify the process by which institutions get to the information in a licence that they need to answer a query or inform a decision, for example, are walk-in users allowed under the terms of this licence, or perhaps more usefully, which of my licences DON’T provide for walk-in users.

Comparison of two licences in elcat. Accessed 21st June 2012

However, there are some challenges facing elcat:

  1. Creating the licence expressions is time consuming, and it isn’t clear that there is high demand.
  2. Currently elcat, only includes JISC Collections licence agreements. Whilst this isn’t a bad thing, the fact is that they are all pretty similar and the real value would start to come from being able to compare completely different licences with each other. Unfortunately, at present, very few people, other than KUALI in the US, are mapping licences in ONIX-PL. This raises the question of whether it’s a viable activity in the longer term – even if we believe that it is of value. Fortunately I’m happy to say that at least one major ERM vendor is currently mapping all of our ONIX-PL licence expressions to their licensing module.
  3. ONIX-PL can only represent what is in the licence – if there is an absence of information or clarity it can’t provide a response. Despite all of our efforts even JISC Collections licences aren’t always as clear as we would perhaps like on some key questions – post-cancellation access entitlements being one that comes to mind. However, the discipline of creating ONIX-PL versions has highlighted this and colleagues are working to try and ensure that in future licences will be much clearer.

Currently elcat is in something of a beta phase where we’ll be adding licences to it and working with our members to see if there is demand, and how we might improve it in the future.

Knowledge Base+

We also intend to include licence information in KB+, but we’re taking a slightly different approach to that taken by elcat:

  1. Rather than map the whole licence (and all of the detail), we are only seeking to capture ‘Yes’, ‘No’. ‘Conditional’ information for a small range of key definitions and clauses that are important to institutions:
    • Concurrent Users
    • Remote access
    • Walk-in Access
    • Multi-Site Access
    • Partner Organisation access
    • Alumni Access
    • Inter-Library Loan
    • Course packs
    • VLEs
    • Use by SMEs
    • Post Cancellation Access
    • Notice Period
  2. Wherever possible, we will be trying to derive this information from the ONIX-PL expressions that we’ve created already so that KB+ can be at least partially pre-populated as soon as a new licence expression enters elcat.
  3. These values can be supplemented with additional notes and commentary – currently JISC Collections is adding the information, but once the system is live, individual institutions will be able to add information that can either be private or shared across all institutions. The advantage of these notes is that it allows us to provide information on, for example, post-cancellation access, that is contained within an offer document rather the licence, but which adds to the comprehension of the licence.
  4. Finally, we’ll be linking to the full licence expression in elcat, so that institutions can see the whole thing and allowing institutions to upload their own versions (scanned PDFs for example) into the system.

An example of the licence information included in KB+ as shown in the underlying database

We hope that this approach will answer key questions for institutions and point them to where they can find further information, saving time and improving access to information and knowledge for all users.

Currently we’re testing KB+ with academic institutions to make sure that we are adding clarity and not just another layer of confusion!

Help wanted

The ethos behind KB+ is ‘do once and share’. We’re very happy to share the work that we’ve done with institutions, publishers and systems vendors so that the supply chain as a whole can benefit, but we would really like to see more people get involved in the creation of these licence expressions across a wide range of resources and make them openly available.

JISC Collections doesn’t cover all resources and this means that whilst we can have a good attempt at creating the licence expression or details of key values, it’s potentially more challenging to start adding interpretative notes.

Of course, if we do KB+ right that might not matter since we’ll have access to the combined knowledge of all those librarians who have been working with those licences over the years and what they’ve learnt.